ידעתם את נפש הגר כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים...
We captured much on film and took loads of pictures but none can truly “tell” the story.
Was it the bus trip that brought us to Lancaster at midnight, motzei Shabbat filled with laughter, chatter and song (no DVD’s, not a one)?
Was it meeting Rabbi Elazar Green at the Eden Inn at midnight? He had the orange juice and Snapple, we had the donuts and he made us laugh. His warm welcome, his effusive smile and outgoing, unassuming nature was a win-win. When a bearded rabbi still dressed in his Shabbos black suit talks about making everyone his Face Book friend, you know “he’s the man!”
Was it the davening at Congregation Degel Israel with wake up on Sunday morning at 7am and again 7am on Monday? Our students entered this Beit Knesset, as if it were their neighborhood shul; we were so comfortable - it felt so natural. The ease with which our kids joined in on the tefilot, layning and the aliyot was inspiring. The girls, of course had their skirts over their work pants, isn’t that always the case?
Was it the hard core physical labor in York or meeting Steve who told us what it was like to see his trailer home destroyed by a new highway and then finding that he would be deserving of a new home from Habitat if all he did was the required “sweat equity?” Ask our participants what that term means. Our young volunteers didn’t miss a thing. Not a sound was made when Steve spoke and the students were moved when they saw this grown man’s eyes get misty as he spoke proudly about his new “home”
Was it the cheers they kept giving Gary, the “Swinging Senior,” who directed the construction efforts and worked side by side with the students? Close your eyes for a moment and imagine our cool 16 and 17 year old teens cheering our 70 plus senior with that ever-familiar: “Gareeee, Gareeee, we love Gareee.” They recognized Gary’s dedication, despite his aging body.
Was it the work? Pulling down sheet rock, ripping off door moldings, filling pails with debris and dumping the waste into containers, wearing masks and goggles, screening windows, tasting the soot without a complaint,not a single gripe, only a few requests for water and band-aids.
Lunch at the new Chabad House in York was on the floor, but it was carpeted. The tuna and egg salad sandwiches were eaten as if they were haute cuisine, several of us complimented the bread, benching aloud, all of it, like Shabbos in camp, was it that?
Was it the painting, the scraping or the fine painting of door and window moldings (reserved only for those with “dexterity”), or the vacuuming of the sandy residue done in the new Chabad House in York?
Perhaps, it was the D'var Torah offered by one of our girls or the attentiveness that our students paid when Rabbi Green offered a “taste of Torah,” always relevant, always with humor… and then came the spontaneous circle dancing around the dinner table at the Chabad House in Lancaster…no band, no real reason…just because.
We kept looking for authentic Amish folk and found that on the huge mural that was a backdrop at the Bowling Alley…we laughed again.
Taking a walking tour with Richard, the administrator of the Old York “Renaissance Project,” was another unexpected eye-opening experience. Imagine following a 6’5”, African American man through a highly economically depressed neighborhood (ok: “bad neighborhood”) and loving it. Like Rabbi Green, Richard had a style that drew us all in, especially when he explained how the huge scar on his face changed his life and gave him the motivation to go on to college, on a basketball scholarship, and eventually brought him back to his roots in York, where he hopes to bring about great changes.
Was it eating at KIVO, the kosher dining facility at Franklin and Marshall College, where we received yet another warm welcome from Beth, an assistant to Rebecca, the new orthodox Director of Admissions?
You guessed it—there’s no one moment. Although each piece was precious, it all came together as one great happening. I do think that the idea of “house” has taken on a special and even new meaning for our magnificent, wonderful volunteers. Chabad offered us a house, a home away from home, and in turn our students, your children, worked to do that for others.